Temporal and Spatial Distribution of Marine Debris on Selected Beaches in the Gulf of Alaska
Scientists at the Auke Bay Laboratories have conducted periodic marine debris surveys on select beaches in Alaska since 1972 with the last survey being performed in 1994. In 2008, this project once again surveys the same beaches in order to evaluate any changes in the marine debris composition, distribution, and abundance over the past decades. Derelict trawl web and other types of debris will be located and measured. The survey area encompasses the upper intertidal area to the storm berm. The survey sites are distributed along the eastern Gulf of Alaska from south of cape Spencer (Kruzof Island) to the west of cape St. Elias (Middleton Island), closely following the Alaskan Gyre, which is the principal vector of debris deposition from offshore sources and re-deposition from “upstream” sources.
Data gathered are representative of the marine debris composition accumulated over the previous winter storms. This allows the examination of marine debris that has been circulating in the ocean most recently and currently affecting the marine ecosystem. Additionally, this project looked for and measured derelict trawl web and other debris. Again, this work has been ongoing since Annex V (Prevention of pollution by garbage from ships) was added to MARPOL 73/78 (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships Act).
Scientists at the Auke Bay Laboratory concluded the 2008 marine debris surveys of select beaches in the Gulf of Alaska. All of the selected beaches are remote, away from villages, and were originally selected to see long term trends in trawl web abundance. Over 25 kilometers of beaches were surveyed encompassing four locations in the eastern Gulf of Alaska: Sea Lion cove on Kruzof Island, Yakutat, Kayak Island and Middleton Island. These surveys have extended the time series, now over three decades long. Even though these beaches are very remote, ocean currents continually bring new debris to the beaches. Over the years, fishery debris in the form or trawl web has decreased. Although the data has not been fully analyzed yet, one finding in 2008 has been easy to notice, namely, the hundreds and sometimes thousands of plastic drink bottles littering almost every kilometer of the surveyed shoreline.
Identify sources and distribution of marine debris found on Gulf of Alaska beaches and compare to earlier
Evaluate the availability of derelict fishing gear and potential threats to marine animals (e.g., northern fur
Identify candidate beaches that may be cleaned of debris to benefit wildlife (e.g., beaches near marine
mammal haul outs or rookeries).
Measuring derelict trawl web found in Sea Lion Cove. Photo courtesy of Jon Thedinga, NOAA.
Eastern shore of Kayak island, a marine debris hot spot. Photo courtesy of Jacek Maselko, NOAA.
Recently deposited trawl web found on the eastern shore of Kayak Island. Photo courtesy of Jacek Maselko, NOAA.
Download the 1-pager handout (pdf 381KB) on this project here.
This program is funded through NOAA's Ocean Service, Office of Response & Restoration, Marine Debris Program.